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Bejeweled

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Bejeweled (Diamond Mine)-screenshot

Bejeweled - Diamond Mine

Category: Strategy Puzzles - Games
Developer: PopCap Games
Rated: Ages 4+
Requirements: Compatible with iPhone (3GS, 4, 4S, & 5), iPod touch (3rd, 4th & 5th generation), and iPad. Requires iOS 4.3 or later.

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Read No Further if Your Time is Precious

Be warned! This game is a sinkhole of a time waster and if you get hooked, good luck living a normal life for the next month or two. Only complete obsession and many sleepless nights will follow as you try to overcome the initial addiction and return to some sort of normalcy.

Warning! This review may lead to loss of life.

I recently posted a review of Gem Spinner 2 from Tiny Bite Games. Looking for other "match three" games, I read about PopCap Games and dropping by their Web site and my interest was piqued by Bejeweled. Like Gem Spinner, it's also a strategy puzzle based on the ever popular 'match three' type game but the similarities end there.

Whereas Gem Spinner has one basic game with many different configurations, Bejeweled offers several different games which are quite distinct from one another. What got me hooked is a Bejeweled variation on the game called Diamond Mine. Of course, there's the Classic Game with no time limit which challenges you to complete as many levels as you can without running out of moves. But for me this game is boring as I can see no real strategy involved. It's more or less just the luck of the draw as to which gems happen to fall and where. (If anyone familiar with the game can tell me that there is indeed a strategy to avoid the dreaded "No More Moves", please email me.)

Diamond Mine will have you digging it!

Bejeweled screen shot

Star/Flame Gems & Hypercube

Like other matching games, you manipulate the various gems to get three or more identical jewels horizontally or vertically. When a match is made, the combination disappears and more gems drop from above. However, in this game, as you can see in the screenshot above, there are eight columns of jewels above four layers of dirt and rock. As gems that are adjacent to the ground are matched, the dirt and rock is blasted out of the way. The challenge is to completely clear the upper two layers before running out of time. If you're successful, the ground then rises back up and another 25 seconds is added to whatever time remains of your initial 90 seconds.

Buried in the lower layers are gold and gem deposits as well as artifacts of varying value. The further down you manage to dig the more valuable the treasure you can unearth. However, as you descend the ground becomes rockier and harder to remove. With the seconds ticking away it can become a frantic scramble to make a match to extend your play time and increase your score.

To make it more interesting, you can create fire gems (matching four in a row) and star gems (matching three horizontally and vertically simultaneously). When fire gems are matched they remove more surrounding gems and/or dirt. The star gems obliterate a complete column and row with a great light show full of sound and fury. These special gems are very important especially in later stages of the game when the rock is very hard to eliminate.

Whenever you match five in a row, it creates a hypercube. When this spinning box is matched to an adjacent gem it will eliminate every gem of that type on the board, and in spectacular fashion. When you have multiple star gems on the board and a hypercube going off, the light show is really intense. Under certain circumstances, you might create a "Super Nova" which is blindingly electrifying.

Bejeweled also keeps a running tab on all your stats. Total time played (I'm not telling), gems matched (997,487), flame gems (28,132), star gems (8,506) and hypercubes created (9,740), as well as all-time best move (157,500).

Some Tips & Tricks

Always try to match gems that are adjacent to the ground. It's the digging that earns you points not the gem-matching per se.

Whenever you clear the top two layers of dirt and rock you earn 25 extra seconds. But, once cleared, if you keep matching quickly enough (before the ground has a chance to rise back up) you might be lucky enough to clear all four layers and that gets you 70 extra seconds and a nice little light show with an accompanying sound effect.

When matching a star gem, it is more effective if it is below ground level as it will remove a complete layer of earth. So, whenever possible, manipulate other gems in order to have the star gem fall below ground level before matching it.

When a hypercube appears, take a second to evaluate which is the best gem to eliminate. Ideally, you want to pick the gem whose mates are adjacent to the ground thereby removing dirt as well as gems. Another consideration is the number of a particular gem on the board. Don't rush it. Sometimes it's best to keep matching other gems in order to make the best use of the hypercube.

Whenever you have two hypercubes on the board, check to see if it's possible to match other gems so that the hypercubes end up next to each other. When two hypercubes are next to one another, match them then sit back and watch the light show as the board is completely cleared and you earn an extra 70 seconds.

My Quibbles

Bejeweled - Diamond Mine

Exploding Star Gem

As I said, the light and sound effects are awesome and really bring a lot of sizzle to the party but all that Sturm und Drang come at a price to your battery life. To maximize playing time, turn on Airplane Mode, turn brightness to lowest possible setting and close all other apps.

As you reach certain milestones, Bejeweled rewards you with merit badges. These badges reside in your profile where you can review them. When you are first presented with a badge, it pops up momentarily full-screen and looks awesome. However, it quickly disappears into your profile page where it's an itty-bitty image and it's impossible to make out any detail. It would be nice to be able to see the full-sized image by clicking on the thumbnail. The artwork looks fantastic.

When you run out of time, the dreaded "Time Up" message appears, the screen dims and the high score page pops up. It would be nice to have the option to remain on the game page a little longer in order to have a chance to review the board and see what you might have done to beat the clock. Sometimes you're just one move away from success when that final grain of sand falls through the hour glass.

I would like the ability to pause the game at some point. It is a very frantic, mad rush and you never get a chance to stop and catch your breath. Perhaps the developers would consider a little recess option after reaching a certain level. As it is now, I don't even have time to actually look at the artifacts and various treasure that I'm uncovering.

Those are my quibbles but the pros outweigh the cons. Just remember: if you do decide to download the app, take a break now and then and attend to other things in life like eating, sleeping and bathing.

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